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Culture That Is Obsessed With Happiness Philosophy Essay
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In recent years, happiness has become
important aspect in peoples lives. In this
regard, Happiness attempts to be defined in
terms of personal attainment in North
American cultural backgrounds and everyone
engaging in these cultures is interested in increasing the experiences of positive affect. In contrast, in East
Asian cultural backgrounds happiness attempts to be defined in terms of interpersonal relatedness and
individuals engaging in these cultures is interested in retaining a balance between positive and negative affects
(Bohannon, 2009). On the other hand, one of the common human experiences is despair and people face it during
difficult times in their lives. For example, people may despair about their family, finances and even world
happenings. When despair doesn’t dissipate but rather develops, it takes control and become chronic or stopping
us from moving toward our aims. Moreover, despair is a deep disappointment regards one’s ability to discover the
meaning of happiness (Diamond, 2011).
The statement by Adam Phillips on the society being determined to look for happiness has become increasingly
popular in the world of psychoanalysts. In this regard, there are some who agree with this statement. However,
there are others who disagree and have laboured to offer ample literature to support their disagreements. Adam
Phillips has come up with a psychoanalytical theory whereby he suggests that people should be allowed to
embrace their mystery (Phillips, 2006). The argument with this statement shows that mystery can replace delusion
to happiness. Philips laments the misguided involvement of people in efforts to pursue what cannot be achieved.
In the psychoanalyst essays of Adam Phillips, he argues that encouraging for search of happiness is misleading
and people should not be bothered (Phillips, 2012). The claim has left many confused, bearing in mind that
psychoanalysts have been considered as able to make people achieve happiness. Consequently, the mainstream
thought on psychoanalysts has led to huge confusion by the above statement. The confusion has been based on
the fact that people pursue happiness through psychoanalytical theories (Phillips, 2012).
The disagreement with this statement indicates that obsession offers people a reason to keep learning in their life
and it is a key to happiness. Moreover, people need to be happy and happiness is being flaunted the basic aim
and something people should be hopeful toward. However, in reality when people are extremely obsessed with
happiness, hence, this passion in fact makes people unhappy (Phillips, 2006). In this regard, this essay will offer a
significant evaluation of the statement that cultures that are obsessed with happiness are in despair, and
happiness is an obsession that cannot be achieved. The argument will be in the light of available evidence. The
agreement will state the extent and the available evidence to support the reasons that will be provided.
Despair and obsession of happiness
In light of appropriate evidence, psychoanalytical history shows that the practice was created so as to offer
clarifications why clinical applications have failed to solve many psychological problems affecting human beings.
Questions based on the inadequacy of clinical operations to provide answers or a treatment to depression has led
to the existence of psychoanalysis. In this regard, the search for happiness has been beyond a clinical practice.
Individuals have pegged their efforts on the search of happiness through the help of psychoanalysts. Needless to
say, the statement by Adam Phillips has been classified as confusing and disappointing. The pursuit for happiness
has been an essential goal of all human beings. However, the fact that happiness cannot be acquired through
clinical subscriptions has made psychoanalysts relevant. The definition of happiness has attracted a lot of
controversy, and up to date it remains vague (Feldman, 2010).
The deferring point of happiness has been explained by the fact that human beings have unique dreams
and achieving of the said dreams is happiness to some people, while others have a totally different meaning
(Schneiderman, 2010). There are a number views disputing Phillip's idea, for instance Pro Bastian
(FindingTheWorld, 2011) claimed that there are great profits of being happy
especially when unhappy people feel worried and forced to be happy. In Particular,
when one of the members of society supports feelings of depression or negative
emotions, the other was obvious that such negative emotions are not well accepted
by society. However, Faulk (CBC, 2011) claims that it is right to be happy, but
happiness as a basic aim is shallow because if peoples’ compass to cross through
the difficulties of life is happiness, it means that if something is undesirable or
problematic, that is the wrong way to move into.
In many occasion the meaning of happiness has been understood differently by
different culture, and there are various culture that are obsessed with happiness. For some cultures happiness
can be the level of satisfaction that is gotten in each individual’s lives, so sometimes in this stage obsession with
happiness can be dangerous because maybe one is less satisfied with what they have in their life (Schumaker,
2007). Taking an example, recent research has shown that higher rates of depression or despair and lower rates
of happiness in the world is in the rich countries such as the USA, while Nigeria as a poor country has lower
proportions of depression and higher level of happiness compared to rich countries. This study has shown that this
is because people in richer countries expect so much and they are obsessed with happiness, and that is totally
different from poorer countries that they are thankful for what they have (Schumaker, 2007). Hence, individuals
become too busy in assessing the level of happiness and neglect the positive moments when they are happy.
For Psychoanalysts like Adam Phillips happiness do not have a universal definition, but they use an individual’s
definition to arrive at what the individual requires. The pursuit of happiness should be understood in the context
that it is contentious on how it is arrived at. In fact, the elimination of negative feelings has led to the happy
moment that many seek. In life’s unique goals, it is clear that achieving happiness has superseded other goals.
Thus, this is becoming a source of worry and many psychological problems such as depression have been
evidenced. The need to be happy has occasioned numerous side effects that can only be reduced by people
giving up on the dream. The most alarming thing about happiness and its search is the fact that human beings’
goals are subject to chance; hence the hurdles before arriving at happiness will always be high. According to
Phillips, much pressure can be reduced if human beings give up the dream of happiness. Without doubt, the
dream has promoted sadism instead of relieving human beings from their day-to-day discomforts. The available
data indicate that the pursuit of happiness has numerous solid challenges that have caused a lot of suffering to
human beings, so the unending suffering has been a main point of disagreement between those who advocate for
the dream and those who think that it cannot be achieved (Alain de Botton, 2001).
According to Phillips (Elliott & Rhodes, 2009), the search for happiness is a myth and many attract a lot of
suffering in their lives by bothering to pursue happiness. The quest for happiness is a source of confusion.
Phillips contends that looking for happiness leads to insanity. In his context, human beings look for
something that is not achievable. The fact that a universal identity has not been
agreed on to define happiness makes the priority for happiness quite sophisticated.
People have largely invested their time and other resources in ventures that are
socially acceptable as a means of leading a happy life. This has made their lives
worse since those who claim to lead a happy time have suffered cruel situations. The
events otherwise considered as socially acceptable have essentially not led to
happiness. The pursuit has resulted into unpleasant events. Most cognitive scholars
hold the view that unhappy events are not necessarily forgotten, but they remain in
the human system. These unhappy events later reoccur inform of defense
mechanisms. The extent to which they stay in the human system is not easily
identifiable. The fact that psychoanalysts have failed to have an agreeable position on what generates happiness
has made the available theories on happiness extremely misleading.
On the other hand, Elliott & Rhodes (2009) mentioned that the Freudian’s theory can be used to avert the
obsession with happiness. The affected party can allowed narrating the dream without restriction. The
psychoanalytic can then help the patient understand the dream cannot be achieved. The Klenian object theory
can be applied to children at an early stage so as to make them aware of the obsession with happiness and how it
is disastrous to them. The Lacanian mirror image theory demonstrates how desires and dreams are developed.
After reaching a stage to identify desires, a child can be cautioned from obsessions such as happiness. On the
other hand, the debate on happiness being an obsession not worth pursuing has developed a class of
psychoanalysts such as Phillips who do not believe in the mainstream understanding of happiness. Basing on the
initial reasons why the branch of medicine was established, it becomes confusing on the role of psychoanalysts.
Many have developed negative perceptions on psychoanalysis because psychoanalysts are not problem solvers
anymore. The need to seek lasting solutions to the costly search for happiness has been the interest of the new
breed of psychoanalysts like Adam Phillips. Patients in psychoanalysis find this truth hard to bear (Jeffries, 2006).
It is acceptable to agree with the Phillips’ notion that a culture of being obsessed with the search for happiness is
a delusion and not worth the attention it is receiving. Alain de Botton (2001) claimed that the search for happiness
leads to insanity, while sanity can only be restored if human beings learn how to live in conflict and deal with it.
This is the only way whereby they can learn to give up all illusions, including happiness. Phillips’ notion is best
understood by the use of examples that ably demonstrate the distinct theories evident in his explanation. An
example to illustrate the above assertion is evident in the dreams of individuals in different age groups. The
dreams and understanding of happiness in the life of a teenage girl are distinct from that of a married woman. To
illustrate, happiness to a teenage girl may mean not having hard homework, passing her exams and having long
holidays. To a married woman, happiness may mean providing for her kids and having obedience kids (Alain de
Botton, 2001).
The above example clearly shows that happiness is unattainable since every class and age group has
dreams of happiness, which correspond to the class. Individuals pursue different dreams basing on the age
set and the social class. Situations in life have various circumstances that hold individuals back. The desire
to free themselves from such opposing forces has been mistaken to lead to
happiness. In the words of Phillips, the obsession with happiness creates a culture.
This culture is handed down from one generation to another. The culture has given
birth to unrealistic demands. People feel that they must succeed and be happy. This
has ideally made them prone to other forms of suffering. There are many cultures in
support of happiness pursuit. For instance, the culture consumer capitalism has
made people to enroll for courses on happiness such as happiness counseling.
They have joined happiness clubs but the results have led to the worst form of
despair in the said cultures. In addition, the culture of professional accomplishments
has led to distress and its supporters have been led to desperation (Jeffries, 2006).
Furthermore, Phillips’ elaboration on how the real day to day difficulties create a feeling that there is a possible
chance to become what we desire to be is convincing. Besides, it is logical that there are some instances that
certain changes have happened. However, those instances have not taken magic, but an understanding of
present situations and coordinated efforts to move a step away from the present situations (Van, 2009). Phillips
vehemently denies the existence of a radical change in human beings. The search for happiness has been
equated to believing in magic. The belief in magic leads to numerous effects that include being prone to suffering.
Once an individual is prone to magic, there are various unavoidable repercussions that will come along with the
belief. The culture of pursuing a myth has led to unnecessary preoccupation in the need for radical changes in an
individual’s world. Belief in magic through the quest for happiness causes people to question their intellectual
capacity in handling day-to-day challenges. Therefore, human beings begin to undermine their living situations for
unrealistic circumstances (Alain de Botton, 2001).
Some historical and theoretical evidence
The worst imagination by all human beings committed to pursue happiness has been to believe that suffering can
be eliminated from the lives of human beings. Phillips appreciates the fact that suffering is not essential in a
human being’s life. It is imperative to note that suffering cannot be wished away because some forms of suffering
are unavoidable. Unfortunately, many individuals who pursue happiness devote their time in trying to change
some aspects of their suffering. The obsession with happiness becomes unreasonable when it suggests
elimination of these situations instead of initiating different ways in which they can be borne. There are various
examples that indicate how the said circumstances are above human beings’ control, and the best they can do is
to bear with the circumstances. The most practical examples to demonstrate these situations include bad parents
or siblings and a bad economic climate. Some of the examples cited indicate how complex the quest for
happiness can be unreasonable. An individual who desires happiness may be viewing happiness as having good
relatives or siblings. Hence, the change of parents or siblings is a myth or the need to have good economic climate
is unachievable. So, the only option is to bear (Elliott & Rhodes, 2009).
On the other hand, Saxby (2012) mentioned that Phillips bases his observation on good luck. He points out
that happiness cannot be acquired through good luck, meaning that there are high chances of not acquiring
happiness. The demand to have a happy life is ideally an ignorance of the desires and feelings that human
beings hold. Therefor, the feelings and thoughts in human beings are a form of
disturbance. The demands can be strong points that push human beings away from
their normal healthy lives. The mistaken notion that thoughts and feeling can be
avoided by having the right choices has been a main impediment to healthy living in
human beings. In fact, the feelings and thoughts place human beings at a strict
fundamentalism that can be averted by understanding that feelings cannot be
controlled. In the moral point of view, happiness has been described as a conformist
form of morality (Saxby, 2012). The fact that happiness is unattainable makes
human beings consider it as an ideal way to live life. The charming part of happiness
is based on the fact that we imagine that the things we do not have in life are the
main source of happiness. Indeed, the things that matter to us in the context of a certain situation in life are
interpreted to mean that an individual is happy. The fact that happiness is explained in connection with certain
things that human being must acquire is one sided (Elliott & Rhodes, 2009).
The worst forms of moral imagination are based on the fact that happiness does not have alternatives. There are
fundamental questions raised on happiness and the things that make human beings happy. The said questions
can be better understood by having an example of the demands of a happy life. While arguing that happiness is a
delusion, Philips has pointed out that there are many surrounding events that make human beings unhappy. He
contends that watching the news could be a cause of unhappiness to many individuals, and watching those events
is inevitable (Phillips, 2002). Nevertheless, this situation provides individuals with realist analyses of the world they
live in. For instance, watching the history of the slave trade or diseases attributed to old age may be avoided by
those obsessed with achieving happiness. The news of the mentioned are not only educative, but they give some
people pleasure. The distinct things that give people pleasure can be considered basing on the example of a child.
Children take pleasure in tormenting people close to them. Similarly, there are people who take pleasure in
watching terrible things. This explains why people in the culture of seeking happiness have failed to reach a
consensus on the definition of happiness. In seeking happiness, many individuals do not imagine facilitating
unhappy situations. Thus, it has been identified that the quest for happiness leads to unhappiness because there
are a lot of things that human beings do not anticipate when pursuing happiness (Haidt, 2006).
Wordings such as ‘catching happiness’ have been highly used by some psychoanalysts. The relationship between
those in constant search for happiness and those who do not search for it is varied (Thin, 2012). The subjectivity
of happiness greatly explains why many people cannot achieve happiness. The things that make some people
happy are at times the things that make others unhappy. This essentially means that the environment that we live
in does not have a friendly atmosphere to promote happiness. The main complication of happiness pursuit is
based on the fact that the said environment keeps on changing. The competing trends of human beings in the said
environment make happiness a myth (Dahlem, 2005). The pursuit cannot be communally facilitated. The quest for
communal or social pursuance to happiness needs to be revisited since it does not have a realistic applicability.
The interpretations of different desires by human beings sometimes coincide with the need to have a happy life.
Essentially, the overlapping of the desires makes the happiness delusion seem to be a way of encouraging conflict
(Olivier, 2009).
In addition, it has been argued that the diverse desires evident in different human beings make some
people view happiness in a unique way. There are those who seek happiness from things that have been
classified as unacceptable in the society. A classic example is the historical event whereby Jews were
executed in the Holocaust. It means a bigger number of the Germans believed they would become happy by
having a society that was free of Jews. In other instances, some societies have
shown strong discrimination against homosexuals. In the two named examples, it
has not been happiness for people to do things that are not acceptable by the
greater population. However, those things do not make they attain happiness
(Olivier, 2009). Furthermore, The sadism presented by the culture that is obsessed
with happiness shows that some essential restrictions are required in the quest for
happiness since it is a threat to the social order (Frey, Stutzer & Universität Zürich,
This can be explained by the reason why there are various morals and laws to
regulate the conduct of members of a society. In a setting where some individuals are allowed to pursue their
obsession to happiness without restrictions, the society is likely to be disorderly and chaotic. There are individuals
who would infringe on other people’s rights to satisfy their imagined obsession to be happy. Examples of such
instances are evident in the day-to-day dealings in different societies. In some societies, there are people who
derive pleasure by harming animals. Teenage boys are said to demonstrate pleasure in the practice of catching
rats and cutting their feet alive. Mistakenly, there are people who think they can be happy when they are
humiliated. It occurs that those who like humiliating others do not meet those who like being humiliated. The two
types of people do not happiness by engaging in things that are genuinely unacceptable (Bernard, 2011).
According to Callahan (2011), There is ample evidence to support the notion that there are people who live their
lives in unhappy ways. Simply put, there are people who would desire for things that will make them unhappy. In
other words, they eventually become happy because they do not pursue happiness, but unhappiness. The
unhappiness search is achieved through doing punishable acts that lead to that person being confined to isolated
places to reform. An example is the chronic criminals who commit crimes so as to remain in jail. These criminals
achieve their unhappiness at being isolated from the society. In this case, their pursuit of unhappiness makes their
lives miserable. There is an array of perceptions that have been advanced by different scholars on the end result
of the commitment to the pursuit of happiness. They have agreed on the fact that the untamed desire to be happy
may lead to the worst injustice (Bruni & Porta, 2007).
In the foregoing discussions, it is evident that psychoanalysts have presented pursuit of happiness differently. To
some, notions that are political in nature have been intertwined with the explanation of happiness and its pursuit.
The elaboration of what happiness is has been done with the rights of men. Famous quotes by Jefferson in the
American Constitution have been used by some psychoanalysts to indicate that pursuit for happiness is a right
that is not attainable. The said political statement gave the citizens a promise, but happiness is unattainable. Many
psychoanalysts have used words such as ‘sense of guilt’ to refer to conflicts in the pursuit of happiness. The
conflict between the ego and the superego have been said to cut across the rights that are likely to have political
premises (Dutt & Radcliff, 2009). Pursuit of happiness can be stated to be a form of punishment in instances that
the pleasure is forbidden since happiness is considered as an unalienable right, but the ground has been unequal.
Psychoanalysts have endeavored to analyse the wordings of the Constitution, whereby happiness is considered
as a right. The political assumption has misled some to believe that happiness is something that is hindered by
certain obstacles that can be removed. In that sense, happiness remains something looked forward to, yet it is
highly unachieved (Frey, Stutzer& UniversitätZürich, 2003).
Since the quest for happiness could be something to look forward to, it could also be unavailable. An
example is a child’s desire for a mother who has always been unavailable or a father who is very prohibitive.
The imagination in the mind of the child is that life would be a happy venture if the parent were available. In
the ideological sense, the obstacles to happiness are easy to overcome at the imaginary level. Acknowledging that
the said things cannot be achieved is a relief to a person who is pursuing happiness. The desires to pursue
happiness cannot exist without substantial restriction, such that an individual pursuing happiness is prevented
from harming others in the society. The restriction may be in the form of an organized institution or through setting
up morals that will regulate an individual’s behavior (Frey, Stutzer & UniversitätZürich, 2003).
Arriving at a uniform definition for happiness has been a great challenge to many psychoanalysts. Adam Phillips’
statement that a culture that is obsessed with happiness is undesirable has been
ably supported using sufficient theories. The critical discussion has proved Pursuit
for happiness is self-destructive and it can only be understood. In addition, pursuit
for happiness contains varying desires that are immoral and punishable. Various
examples have been used to support this view. The pursuit of happiness is not a
venture worth human beings’ time. The elements of happiness that make it
unattainable are to be considered amidst the environmental conditions surrounding
human beings’ lives. The notions that rest at the analytical point of happiness are
marked by the inability to have uniform elements of happiness. Lack of a uniform
way to harmonize happiness among people of different races and ages is an explaining fact why the obsession to
pursue happiness is impractical. Individuals who engage in the pursuit of happiness encounter a lot of restricting
factors (Mauss, Tamir, Anderson et al., 2011). With the differences in the psychoanalytical theories, it is clear that
happiness is wishful thinking; it should not be a bother to human beings.
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